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Undiscovered assets may complicate estate administration

Sometimes one of the most difficult aspects of estate administration is finding all of the assets that should be included. A recent case involving a former Florida resident is an excellent example of such estate complexities.

The woman is seeking a payout of a life insurance policy owned by her deceased mother who passed away in 1998. The policy was taken out in 1921 with John Hancock, but the daughter didn’t become aware of it until the summer of 2013. The daughter filed a claim for the proceeds after discovering the policy.

The insurance company processed the claim and sent the money to a Naples, Florida, address where the daughter has not resided in 14 years. Because she did not live there when the money arrived, the payment was turned over to the State of Florida as unclaimed property. Since June of last year, the daughter has filed multiple claims with Florida's Department of Financial Services to get the money she is owed, but with no success.

For heirs and beneficiaries of an estate, this case illustrates the importance of having all of your ducks in a row to collect a decedent's assets. Heirs typically need to provide the decedent's will and other estate-planning documents to the circuit court clerk in the county where the decedent lived. An attorney is typically needed to assist with probate estate administration because the process is usually unfamiliar to most people, and all sorts of legal issues can arise.

Preplanning and having an inventory of all assets can prevent problems with estate administration. Had the daughter in this case been aware of the life insurance policy at the time of her mother’s death, it is possible that the claim could have been processed more easily without the legal issues she is facing now.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Problem Solver: Wait continues for life insurance money,” Jon Yates, Jan. 2, 2014 

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